When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first 200-page "novel" when I was eight years old, but I'd been writing short stories and little random scenes for quite a while prior to that point.
The novel has unfortunately been lost to posterity. I know my kids would have gotten a kick out of seeing it, but I have clear memories of parts of it. It really was more a treatise on what I wanted and expected my grown-up life to be like. I included details of the house I would live in, down to the decorations in my future children's rooms. I planned to have eight kids (thank goodness that detail changed! I'm very happy with my three!), and no one would be allowed to wear shoes in the house. I don't know where that rule came from at the time--my parents certainly never instigated such a thing--but in my home now, we do indeed leave our shoes outside.
The most detailed part of that treatise, though, involved the animal houses. It was my most fervent desire to grow up to be insanely wealthy so that I could afford to go to all the animal shelters in the world and rescue every single animal. I planned to have a mansion-sized home for every type--a dog house, horse house, rabbit house, one for cats, bunnies, turtles, you name it. They would be required to get along with each other or else! And I would take care of them all and play with them every day.
As a matter of course, I would have to be a veterinarian, too, so I would know how to care for them properly. That ambition ended when I learned that vets have the responsibility of putting animals to sleep. I understood the genuine necessity of doing such a thing for an animal that was suffering, but I couldn't bear to think about doing it myself. However, all those plans, and many others, were extensively detailed in that first book.
Read more of this interview.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in southern California, first in Orange County, then in the high desert, and both locations influenced my writing.
Orange County is a sort of fantasy place to live--the weather is almost always good, it's beautiful, there are beaches galore, shopping is an epic adventure, and there's always Disneyland. I loved it there and still miss it. I was lucky to live there again during a few of my college years, which I very much enjoyed. As for the writing--I started writing at a very young age. Being surrounded by such a fanciful place, not to mention the strong emphasis on the arts in the community, helped my imagination soar. I had constant access to a wide variety of creative, supportive people. It was a wonderful place to begin discovering that part of myself. My writing at that stage reflected both my youth and the fairy tale landscape--it was light, fluffy, and sparkly, full of optimism.
Then my family moved to a very small town in the high desert. Talk about culture shock! In the early days, I felt like I'd been banished to the moon. Artistic opportunities were pretty limited initially, and I admit it took me a long while to learn to appreciate the stark beauty of a desert landscape. Thankfully, I made a lot of great friends there, ones I still cherish today, and they helped smooth the transition. However, a lot of my writing in that period involved escaping the desert! As I grew into my teen years, my work became darker, more angsty. It dug deeper and often reflected the desert's bleakness on a cold winter's day.
Now, I think (I hope!) that my work reflects both places and periods in my life. Since I write romance with a guaranteed Happily Ever After ending, a lot of it is light and fluffy out of necessity, but without any darker tones woven through, it would have no substance at all. Some books, like Cupid's Mistake, are lighter than others. That one is pure sparkly fluff, perfect for a beach read or an escape from a trying day when you don't want to wade through lots of trauma and tears to get to that Happily Ever After. On the other hand, Pearls of Pleasure is much darker and deals with the trauma of a husband and wife coming to grips with the changes in their relationship after the hero-firefighter's near-death experience on the job.
Aside from the emotional contributions my early locations have made to my work and personal development, those locations themselves feature prominently in my books. Pearls of Pleasure, Unwrapped, and Cupid's Mistake all take place in southern California, although the high desert garners only a brief mention--but it will play a more prominent role in future works. I'm very grateful for the growth and opportunities I was able to take advantage of in both of my hometown areas.